What is a Radial Tire?

Why do most drivers prefer radial tires? Because non-radial tires are underwhelming in their performance. Such tires have a huge rolling resistance which contributes to added fuel consumption. Absence of flex in their sidewalls results in a bumpier, harder ride. That isn’t where the bad news end.

Non-radial tires also have a smaller footprint that prevents them from having a stable contact with the road surface. It reduces their tread life and exposes them to more ground compaction and damage. They generate more heat on the road and require replacement quicker as well.

Radial tires steer well clear of all these shortcomings. The combination of flexible sidewalls, low rolling resistance, and steel-belted construction allows them to boost a softer ride, reduced fuel consumption, and longer tread life. Little wonder, then, that they’re uber popular on the market.

Read on to know more about what is a radial tire.

What is a radial tire?

What is a radial tire

Radial tires are those tires in which the cord plies are arranged at a 90-degree angle to the center of the tire (or to the direction of travel). This design makes sure that as the tire flexes, plies don’t rub against each other.  But that’s not all that you may want to note about their construction.

Yet another notable element in their design is the presence of steel belts. These belts are located at a ‘spiral’ angle to the direction of travel and impart stiffness to the tire. Their presence helps the tire boast a more rigid overall construction. It also allows the tire’s tread to last longer.

Playing an equally important part in their sturdiness is their thick shoulder. It protects the tire’s interior from damage by absorbing the brunt of the impact. Together with the bead filler, whose functionality is evident by its name, the thick shoulder improves the radial tire’s durability.

The way these tires’ construction helps dissipate heat is noteworthy as well. They have a tire chafer that erects a heat-resistant layer in front of the ply cord – the part of the tire which is the most exposed to the heat created by bead rubbing. That’s why radial tires thrive effortlessly in summer conditions. 

Benefits of radial tires

Benefits of radial tires

Following are the benefits radial tires provide vis-à-vis traditional bias tires:

  • Less Fuel Consumption: The presence of rigid steel belts in their tread region takes the pressure off of these tires’ tread area. It therefore allows radial tires to roll with less resistance, thereby reducing your vehicle’s overall fuel consumption.
  • Better Driving Experience: Their peculiar design makes sure that radial tires have more flexible sidewalls than the traditional ones. This makes sure that as the tire contacts the road, it remains stable to provide a softer, bump-free driving experience.
  • Extreme Heat Resistance: We have already explained how the presence of the tire chafer in front of the ply cord helps these tires dissipate heat better. What we haven’t told you so far, however, is that their better heat-dissipating lengthens the life span of these tires as well.
  • High Load-Bearing Capacity: The flexible sidewalls of these tires don’t just ensure a smooth and seamless driving experience. Their elasticity also gives the vehicle the ability to withstand heavy loads by consistently distributing the bed pressure along the vehicle’s body.
  • Massive Speed Ratings: One specific feature of radial tires makes them a great contender for sports cars. They have a crown belt that prevents deformation and keeps the tire stable at high speeds. Hence why high-end radial tires can be driven safely at more than 150mph.

Shortcomings of radial tires

Shortcomings of radial tires

Following are some of the downsides of radial tires:

  • High Initial Asking Price: Given the fact that they provide a softer driving experience, dissipate heat better and last longer, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that radial tires cost more than a traditional bias-ply tire.
  • Vulnerable To Punctures: Radial tires don’t handle abuse well when they’re under-inflated or overloaded. Both these unnatural conditions might cause their sidewall to bulge, thereby potentially leading to puncture and damage.
  • Poor Transport Handling: While radial tires have more ‘radial’ stiffness than bias-ply tires, they have relatively low ‘lateral’ stiffness. This exposes them to sway as the speed of the tires, along with its weight, increases.

FAQs and Answers

Q: What is the difference between radial and non-radial tires?

A: The major difference between both these tires is how they allow their tread and sidewall to function. Radial tires allow both these components to function as independent features. That isn’t the case with non-radial tires whose sidewalls and crown are interdependent.

Q: How often should radial tires be rotated?

A: Experts recommend that you rotate your radial tires every 6,000 to 8,000 miles or six months. Make sure that during the rotation, each tire is removed from its position and installed at a different position. This will allow all tires to last longer by helping them wear evenly.

Q: What is the best way to rotate radial tires?

A: Tires’ maker Goodyear informs us of the best way to rotate radial tires. We should replace the front (driver-side) tire with the rear (driver-side) tire. In the same way, the front passenger-side tire should be installed in place of the rear passenger-side tire.


According to a survey by Consumer Reports, their superior construction has allowed radial tires to clinch a 100% market share in the United States. Their steel-belted construction, low rolling resistance, and flexible sidewalls are probably the reason why these models have replaced traditional tires.

Hence the reason why if you want to enjoy a softer riding experience, hoping to cut your trips to the gas filling station or own a sports car, radial tires are your best bet. They might cost more up-front but do well to justify their high initial asking price with the features mentioned above.

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